Broadcasters Need Convincing of the Case For Cloud
Cloud-based technology promises to cut costs by facilitating greater flexibility, scalability and collaboration among users, but equipment manufacturers still face an uphill task persuading many broadcasters to break from decades of operational methodology.
The benefits of post producing programming is becoming established, especially for shows with high shoot ratios. For example, Discovery Communications' Gold Rush (series 3) - a featured case study at the IBC Workflow Solutions Village at IBC2012 - was compiled with its rushes uploaded, logged and rough-cut online.
One of the main attributes claimed for Cloud production in a live or near live environment is that it can enable journalists, producers and editors to discover and edit freshly created or archived media from a desktop regardless of the location of media.
For news operations this could speed breaking stories to air by allowing teams in the field or at bureaux in different states, countries or time-zones to collaborate on building stories with the latest footage.
An additional advantage for sports broadcasters is to remove at a stroke the logistics and expense of carting terabytes of archived media to venues in order to cut together packages when they can search the full library online instead.
Combinations of browser-based editor, managed internet hosting and data centres could ease the pressures on the fast turnaround edits of close-to-air promotions. It is understood that several US networks are evaluating cloud technology for just this purpose.
A Cloud service could also benefit the internal management of media, enabling access to assets for everyone for executive approval to press or compliance, QC and legal from a central resource. The same access to programme assets – video, audio, metadata and so on – could be used by various licensed parties, like station affiliates, to cut versions for pre- and post watershed or for online distribution.
While Cloud may be slow to take-off in replacing conventional on-air workflows, there is evidence of an uptick in use of Cloud for managing and editing online video— where broadcasters face the dilemma of creating and publishing more and more content with the same or fewer resources.
This summer, for example, NBC edited 3,500 hours of Olympic content from 70 live feeds streamed from London at its New York HQ. Material was uploaded to the cloud, edited in a browser-based editor and output to NBC’s Olympic Games YouTube channel.
To achieve a similar web production without the Cloud would mean stationing around 50 editors in London for the Games’ duration incurring all costs of travel and accommodation.
Yet outside of a few pioneering sites, such as Rogers Media in Canada, there is inertia among broadcasters about swapping out decades of operational methodology and equipment for a more virtual approach to business, especially when it comes to long-form programming.
An IBC2012 Conference session 'Where Cloud Delivers for Media', poured cold water on the practicality of the technology at this stage.While the BBC is looking to cut backroom costs using Cloud, according to its Chief Enterprise Architect, Harry Strover, “You need massive bandwidth connectivity to transfer long-form broadcast programmes – one file could take up to a couple of days to move into the Cloud.”
Oliver Copp, International IT Governance Manager at ProSibenSat1 said that even if the broadcaster wanted to put more content on the Cloud, “some TV contracts specifically forbid you from handing over content to third parties.”
While Christophe Rémy-Néris, IT Director for Technical Broadcast and Solution Architect for the MIT project at Canal+ said he was yet to be convinced that his organisation would save a penny by transferring even archive and transcoding services to the Cloud.
Broadcasters in general see the technology and cost benefit, but it is reliability and security that has been making them more cautious.
Underscoring this message is the result of a recent Avid Technology survey conducted by Ovum Research, which involved interviews with 200 decision makers from broadcast and postproduction organizations in Europe and North America. The survey found that only 23% of the respondents are using a cloud infrastructure today, though more than 75% are exploring cloud deployment for the future.
Proponents of cloud services reason that in time, more decision makers will conclude that cloud workflows can be more cost effective than maintaining on-site servers. They also point out that broadband, including the rollout of 4G networks in the field, will get faster and more reliable and sufficient to handle data of 4K and beyond. Heavyweight computational tasks like transcoding, outside the sphere of production, will be among the first to move across wholesale and there seems an inevitability that more and more tech vendors will have ported their workflow to the Cloud by IBC2013. For this emerging technology it is just a matter of time.